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2017 Kawasaki Versys-X 300 ABS Enters MD Test Fleet: The First 100 Miles

We took the long way home from Kawasaki after picking up our new Versys-X 300 ABS test bike earlier this week. This is the new, ultra-lightweight adventure tourer that has caused quite a bit of excitement among MD readers. Our ABS model is priced at $5,699, while the non-ABS version goes for $5,399.

You can read all the details concerning this model in our earlier report, and we will follow this brief introduction with a full ride review a few weeks down the road. We dropped off the powerful Z900 when we picked up the little Versys, and the engine performance contrast was, at first, a bit shocking. The Z900 makes a ton of low-end grunt, while the new Versys pulls hardest above 8,000 rpm.

Once we acclimated to the smaller engine’s performance, we found usable thrust beginning at 5,000 rpm on city streets with the bike willing to cruise smoothly on the highway at over 80 mph (while spinning at over 9,000 rpm). The engine remains smooth just about everywhere, with some mild vibration above 10,000 rpm.

The other contrast with the Z900 was the comfort and wind protection of this smallest Versys model. The seat is surprisingly firm and supportive with a nice little hump you can press your low back against while riding.  Bolt upright ergonomics include pretty good leg room, and broad handlebars that allow you to change direction with very little effort.

Kawasaki claims a curb weight (with the 4.5 gallon fuel tank topped off) of just 386 pounds – nearly identical to the weight of a Ninja 300. The narrow tires (including a 19″ front) contribute to the nimble feel, but the bike always feels plenty stable.

We put roughly 100 miles on the bike on our way back to the MD office, including a short stint off-road. Our first impression is that this bike is not only extremely comfortable, it is a blast to ride. The light weight makes it more capable off-road than most large adventure tourers, as well.

We will report back after putting more mileage on the new Versys-X 300 ABS.


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50 Comments

  1. Bob says:

    Just curious. What rod journal phasing on the crankshaft does this twin have ? 360, 270, or 180 degrees?

  2. Mr.Mike says:

    I dig everything about this and would happily take it cross-country if I had time – but I don’t accept that it actually needs all the superfluous plastic. The plastic around the headlights and the panel with the “Kawasaki” label can stay. Everything else seems unnecessary – especially the silver parts. Less is more.

  3. Jeff says:

    Would really like to see a bike like this in the 500-600cc range with:
    5+ ga fuel tank
    cruise control
    ABS
    19″ front wheel
    heated grips
    This would pretty much be a perfect all around bike for those of us getting up in years and not wanting to roll around a 500# bike.

    • Kent says:

      You just described a V-Strom, except for the cruise control.
      And yes, it’s a fantastic all around bike.

    • tommy elliott says:

      I agree, I just sold off my trusty Vstrom for a much lighter CB500x for more off-roadability. The little 500 is a blast to ride and could use more suspension(Rally Raid) but is a real struggle above 65mph and for that matter even 65 is a strain in the mountains and wind, so a 300cc? I kind of get the whole 250-300cc world-wide thing but us “Mericans” just like mo POWER!!!

  4. Geoffrey Hill says:

    I could see myself getting one of these. Please tell us top speed, rpm at 60. Want to know how good it would be on Highway at constant 75. Would help me decide. Thanks.

  5. steveinsandiego says:

    i read, somewhere, that valve checks/adjustments are scheduled every 7500 miles. bring back hydraulic valves!!

    • downgoesfraser says:

      My 2008 250 Ninja went 53,000 miles with the original shims, cam chain was replaced at that time.

    • My2cents says:

      Hydraulic valve adjusters are not fool proof and shim under bucket valve check intervals are fairly far apart and adjustments even more so. Also hydraulic valve tend to dislike high rpm use such as a 300 cc engine turning 10,000 rpm plus.

    • Provologna says:

      Talk to persons like myself with as many miles as possible on a bike with shim under bucket valve lash clearance adjusters. They are as bullet proof as anything made of metal that moves. Generally, modern motor valve trains don’t wear. Here’s all you need to know: Excessive top end noise indicates excess clearance. Rough idle and/or “popping” on deceleration indicates clearance below spec. If your motor shows none of the above symptoms, ignore the OEM inspection window, ride the bike, and fugetaboudit. Exception: for reason I can not remember, ignore this advice for Ducati’s Desmodromic valve train (one of our resident gear heads can enlighten us), which is not shim under bucket anyway.

      Two items contribute to the OEM inspection window that are of zero interest to the owner/rider: the EPA and other regulating agencies desire to minimize emissions of every kind, including aural. The shorter is the inspection window and closer to OEM spec is valve lash clearance, the less are vehicle emissions. The longer the OEM window, the greater are emissions and likelihood of EPA protest, and potential future legal hassles, even if/when clearance is totally within a safe operating range.

      The second item contributing to the inspection window is to give owners a reason to visit the dealer for service, thus increasing the likelihood of owner’s making a purchase at the dealer unrelated to the clearance issue.

      The Japanese switched to shim under bucket because it kicks arse and is closer to fool proof than any other option.

      • Tim says:

        My guess is that it’s the second item which is the primary motivator for the short interval schedules. I’m sure dealers actively lobby for it behind the scenes.

  6. Vrooom says:

    I could see using this thing for a short distance adventure touring, staying in the mountains within 250 miles of home or so. Would probably be a great commuter too.

  7. jim says:

    Curious about MPG, when you get around to it.

  8. My2cents says:

    Certainly a interesting motorcycle that can be a lot of things to a lot of riders. Big bore adventure riders can buy in cheap for a one up ride. New riders coming to the adventure format can get a less weighty package. Tank size and fuel mileage could push out distances beyond what several “approved adventure motorcycles” brag about.
    Kawasaki has done a fine job bringing to market what many have asked for and on a preexisting platform.

  9. pBrasseur says:

    Nice and practical, makes plenty of sense especially for urban use.

  10. Pete Rasmussen says:

    Nice bike. Hey what about giving it a two up test also. Two up is important for most of the people at home but not so much for journalists it seems. I know it is a small bike but it ought to drag a pillion along ok at legal speeds. Revs at 60 mph is another inclusion that would make the test more useful also. Are the lights good or not? A lot of reviews nowadays just seem to gloss over details how about showing the mob how to do it properly?

    • mickey says:

      There is a whole lot they don’t tell us in motorcycle reviews these days besides the comfort for a pillion part, and how good the lights are, how about how good the horn is, how easy it’s going to be to get to the drain plug, the oil filter, the air filter, the spark plugs, to put air in the tires. Actual wet weight (measured), seat height, how well the mirrors work. You know, what it’s going to be like to actually live with the thing over the long haul.

      At least (in pictures) they usually let us know if it will wheelie (rolls eyes)

    • Bigshankhank says:

      Two up with luggage, especially.

      • Tom R says:

        This is the right bike for Third World test: three modestly-proportioned adults plus an infant, with a big bundle of sticks or hay strapped to the luggage rack.

    • Dave says:

      It’s an intro article.

      “We put roughly 100 miles on the bike on our way back to the MD office,”

      We will report back after putting more mileage on the new Versys-X 300 ABS.”

  11. Jahlove says:

    Imagine that a Kawasaki 300cc with more power than the old KLR 650. What is wrong with Kawasaki,Honda,Suzuki and yamaha they are all not upgrading the 650cc dual sports? At least give us something from the 400cc trail bikes with the great shocks and fuel injection. We want more dual sports 400cc and up. It’s so frustrating with these manufacturers having these old bikes selling for over 10 years with no changes but graphics and colors….So weak,wish BMW or KTM would just bring a fleet of new dual sports and make them regret they never upgraded.
    XR 650l since 1992
    DR 650 – 1995
    KLR 650 2005 – slightly upgrades from 1989 model
    XT 600 -2005 one year model and stopped shipping to the u.s
    Shame on all of y’all…. Please start the revision process asap.

    • ApriliaRST says:

      > Imagine that a Kawasaki 300cc with more power than the old KLR 650.

      It is the torque curve that matters.

      • Tom R says:

        Yeah, gotta love these ancient and quaint Japanese 650 singles: carburetors, fuel petcocks, and “analog” ABS brakes (they are so crappy that you can’t lock them up no matter how hard you apply them).

      • Jon says:

        ‘It is the torque curve that matters.’

        And gearing. Way too many people forget that torque is multiplied by the gearing. If a bike makes x amount of torque with a flattish torque curve to 6000rpm then hits the redline, it will give the same acceleration as a bike with a similar shaped torque curve going up to 12000rpm, but with half the amount of torque. The gearing is usually chosen to give similar shift points in similar types of bike.

        Obviously it’s rare to get one bike revving so much more than another, but it’s the reason Harley’s are relatively so slow despite big torque numbers. Torque x gearing ratio gives the thrust, which is what you feel when opening the throttle.

    • blitz11 says:

      It’s about making money. IF KLR sales were never that great, they don’t have an incentive (or much) to redesign the entire bike.

      My offroad bike is a 2002 GasGas EC300. I look at new dirt bikes today, and they REALLY haven’t changed much. Case in point. My buddy’s kid had a 2015 CRF250 honda. It had a sticking front brake caliper and he had a race, so i took a spare Nissin caliper, and gave it to him. Bolted right on. We didn’t change the brake pads from the EC, and he raced it that weekend. He noticed NO difference in brake performance. Why? SAME PARTS. Nothing really changes.

      If you read a dirt bike review about “this year’s model brakes SO much harder than last year’s bike,” it’s B.S. It’s just to sell bikes. And the minions accept as fact without really knowing.

      He fixed his caliper (finally), and gave me the newer one. he was happy with what i had given him. it didn’t matter, and there was a 13 year difference in age.

      I don’t ever seeing a need to buy a new dirt bike. i am not that good of a ride anyway, and to lay out $10K for essentially what i have makes no financial sense.

      People talk big, but don’t open their wallets.

      • todd says:

        Kawasaki has no problems selling the KLR in large numbers. If something works and sells well, what’s the point of changing it?

      • Tim says:

        I’ve always been amazed by how many KLR 650’s I see when I take long bike trips. I finally bought one myself, last July (a brand new 2015, $5,149 out the door price). It was just too much of a bargain to pass up. I also have a BMW K1600 GTL, but wanted something that I could take off the pavement and not feel bad about putting it away dirty. My first thought while on my first ride on the KRL was that I’d made a horrible mistake. Going back and forth between a 160 hp bike and a 38 hp bike, I definitely notice the lack of HP. Still, I’ve grown to love the KLR and find myself riding it a lot more than the BMW. It’s lighter and easier to get out of the garage, and I like how light it is on the road as well.

        The lack of fuel injection is one thing that appeals to a lot of KLR owners. They’re easy to work on, and that comes in especially handy if you’re, say, in the middle of Central America and have a break down. Chances of getting it back on the road yourself, or being able to find a local mechanic who can make it run again are a lot greater than if you’re riding a GS 1200 or a Versys X-300 for that matter. Is it as awesome to ride as a GS 1200 or some of the KTM adventure bikes? No, but it also costs 1/3 as much and can be worked on just about anywhere on the planet. Would I like fuel injection and another 15 HP? Absolutely, but I’m not sure it’s worth the $2,000 price hike likely to go along with it.

        • Jeremy in TX says:

          I have a Husqvarna TR650 Terra that has an extra 15 hp and fuel inection. It was so worth the extra $.

          • Half Baked says:

            You really should contact the Texas Film Commission about funding a reality TV show featuring your Brobdingnagian motorcycle collection. Base it in the hill country and you’re practically guaranteed success.

          • Tim says:

            Jeremy, I liked the Husky and the KTM 690. The Husky was a great value and I think it’s MSRP was only about $500 more than the KLR when introduced. The KTM is nearly twice what I paid for the KLR, so there was definitely a part of me that was being cheap in going the direction of the KLR. I’ve ridden a friends KTM 690, and the motor was great, and it is a lot lighter than the KLR. I suspect if the Husky TR was still around, it would have risen significantly in price, based on the prices of their pure dirt bikes, which rival KTM’s in price. There have been rumors of Kawasaki working on fuel injection for the KLR, but I’m not sure if that’s speculation or if there is something to it.

          • Jeremy in TX says:

            I wonder if the KLR crowd would welcome or bemoan the introduction of fuel injection. I imagine regulations will pretty much mandate it at some point in the near future. Personally, the number of fuel injection failures I’ve had to deal with over the years is exactly zero. I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to mess with carburetors.

          • Tim says:

            People on the KLR forums seem excited whenever rumors of fuel injection come up, so I think more would be in favor of it than against it.

    • todd says:

      Kawasaki did upgrade the KLR and they called it the Versys 300.

      • Tim says:

        Completely different types of bikes. The 300 is definitely going to be more pavement oriented. While the KLR isn’t a true dirt bike, by any means, it is capable of taking you over pretty rough terrain when necessary, and real knobbies don’t feel out of place on them.

  12. Jonny Blaze says:

    Vstrom 250 – Power 18.4kW @ 8000rpm (25PS), Torque 23.40Nm @ 6500rpm (17.26lb.ft)

    Versys X 300

    Horsepower (est): 39.3 hp @ 11,500 rpm
    Maximum Torque (est): 19 ft.-lbs. of torque @ 10,000 rpm

    I prefer the Vstrom 250 power characteristics.
    With power maxxing at 8000rpm, it will cruise comfortably around 4-5000 rpm.
    Torque is also tuned for low to mid range performance, more useful for touring.

    Though the Versys produces 2 ft/lbs more torque, it needs an extra 3500 rpm to do so.

    • Jeremy in TX says:

      They are likely geared very nearly the same. You wouldn’t be doing anything comfortably at 5K rpms except going slow.

      • Tom R says:

        Spec sheet racing is almost as much fun as bench racing (and no splinters in your butt).

      • Jonny Blaze says:

        Yup. Won’t be going anywhere fast with a 250, but smoothly and comfortably.

    • todd says:

      Wow, seriously? The Kawasaki 300 pulls nearly twice as hard as Suzuki’s 250. The 300 (Ninja at least) is also very comfortable above normal highway speeds. Stop looking at rpm spec sheets and go ride them back to back and see for yourself.

  13. Buckwheat says:

    FTW, Lotsa Win!

  14. motocephalic says:

    I really like this bike. The only thing missing are tubeless wheels so that maybe a tire repair might be easier on the trail/road. The heavier ad/tourer bikes just don’t cut it for me any more. Lighter is righter!

  15. beasty says:

    This bike was on my short list(which gets shorter every day), but it’s too tall for me(sigh). It’s physically larger than I expected also. I like the idea, but sadly, it’s just not for me. Onward!

  16. VLJ says:

    Apologies in advance, and no offense intended, as I know this site is still a business and must therefor go about its business, but with Nicky’s condition remaining so tenuous and the prognosis looking so grim, I honestly couldn’t care less right now about another new-bike ride report.

    • ApriliaRST says:

      I’m sure the site will update on Nicky as it gets information.

    • Neil says:

      Nicky would not want people to just bum out and stop everything they are doing. Humble guy. Wayne Rainey famously called the paddock from his hospital bed and said, go get it! The best way to honor Nicky IS to do motorcycle stuff. I have friends who stay home all the time. Literally. Nicky is not like my friends. He attacks everything in life with passion. That’s his legacy and with a big smile.

    • randy says:

      Can’t report on what you don’t know, and his family wants a little privacy, what’s to report? I’m not gonna sit in a dark room, waiting. I’ve got a 69 Hayden phone cover from his Duc days to rub for good luck.

  17. Cyclemotorist says:

    I think this 300 will sell well.